Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week begins the long, vague project I proposed last week: coming up with the Story of America that liberals should be telling, one that justifies our worldview and mobilizes our voters.

But unlike the City on a Hill/Barbarians at the Gates story that plays that role for conservatives, I’d like our story to be as true as such a story can be. I want its history to correspond to what really happened, and its projections to be based on the way the world really works. Like any story, it will emphasize some things and leave out others, but I want it to illuminate rather than deceive.

In short, I don’t want to just throw all our current commitments together and spin some yarn that rationalizes them. Too many of the arguments we make today are corrupted by other people’s myths. Sometimes we’ve inadvertently accepted the ideological inventions of our opponents, and sometimes we’ve just given in to what Americans want to believe about themselves. Sometimes we’ve set our goals too timidly, so we end up promoting policies (like raising the minimum wage) that are fine ideas as far as they go, but don’t credibly solve the problem we say we’re working on.

So over the next several months (or maybe longer) I want to re-examine issues from scratch, and root my understanding of them in true history, rather than the stories commonly bandied about today. This week I start with immigration, and with Aviva Chomsky’s recent book Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal. That piece is just about ready to go, and should be out shortly.

The weekly summary will open with a quote that could be the motto of the first phase of this whole vague project: “It is better to know less than to know so much that ain’t so.” (And it turns out not to be a Mark Twain or Will Rogers line, no matter what the internet says. That ain’t so.) Then I’ll go on to talk about President Obama’s new boldness on net neutrality, climate change, and (maybe soon) immigration; the comet landing; the Rashomon-ish way the media covered the second-year ObamaCare premiums; and whatever else comes up. And I’ll close with a video proving that although you may have to pay your dues to sing the blues, you don’t have to be old enough to talk.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So what was that all about? Why, for the second midterm in a row, did the Democrats lose all the close races and yield control of another house of Congress?

The falling unemployment rate and deficit didn’t matter, the coming demographic wave didn’t matter, Big Data didn’t matter, the unpopularity of the Republican Party and their complete lack of solutions didn’t matter. They now control the Senate, and they kept control of governorships in both red states and a few blue ones.

And yes, all that dark money played a role, voter suppression played a role, racism played a role … but I’m left with the feeling that there’s much more to it than that. I’ll try to capture the bigger picture later this morning in “Republicans have a story to tell. We’re stuck with facts.” I’m not sure exactly how long it’s going to take to get that out.

In the weekly summary, “Broken Pieces of Truth”, I’ll walk through some of the explanations of what happened, and the speculation about what happens next. Plus I’ll summarize why the Supreme Court is finally going to have to rule on marriage equality, and what the new ObamaCare case is about. And I’ll close with a warning from Ned Stark.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Tomorrow is Election Day, so that’s what I’m focused on. The Sift never claims to be non-partisan*, but least of all today: I want the Democrats to hold the Senate.

So this week has two featured posts. The first is my encouragement to vote: “Vote. It’s Not Nearly Enough. But It’s Something.” I’m arguing against the people who think they’re protesting by not voting. I admit that the two-party system doesn’t give us the choices we wish we had. But all that says to me is that voting isn’t enough; we also need Occupy-like efforts to change the political conversation and change the larger culture.

I also think that the choice the two-party system does give us is clear, and I argue that in detail in the second featured post, “The Case for Voting Democrat”.

“Vote” should be out shortly, and “Democrat” later in the morning. A short weekly summary should appear before noon.

* All I claim is that I’m honest. I’ll try to convince you, but only by telling you things that I believe are really true.


The Monday Morning Teaser

Today I’m going to make the case that (if you take the time to think about it) Ebola should be a liberal issue, not a conservative one. Emotionally, it’s a conservative issue because it raises fear, and conservatism is all about taking drastic, angry action out of fear. But rationally, Ebola teaches liberal lessons: To beat this, we need to think like a society rather than like a collection of sovereign individuals. We need to think in ways unrelated to the profit motive. We need to care for the weak and helpless, even if they’re in some distant country. We need to trust in our scientists and our government, rather than react in fearful and ignorant ways.

And if you could reach back into the past and restore those CDC budget cuts, wouldn’t you do it? What other budget cuts will eventually turn out to be similarly short-sighted?

In the weekly summary, I’ll look at the Catholic Church’s Synod on the Family and what it tells about Pope Francis’ plans for change, at Paul Krugman’s case for the success of the Obama presidency, and at the Supreme Court’s mixed record on voting rights. And I’ll close with a very cute radio piece about turning third-graders into radio reporters.

Expect the Ebola piece about 10 EDT, and the summary around noon.

BTW: No Sift next week. Though if you’re near Bedford, Massachusetts on Sunday morning, you can come hear me speak.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s Sift is heavy on featured articles and light on the weekly summary. The first featured article is my response to the much-discussed Sam Harris/Ben Affleck argument on Bill Maher’s Real Time: “Sam Harris and the Orientalization of Islam”. I expect to get roasted for this in the comments, because I know Sam Harris is a special hero of some of the Sift’s regular readers. But I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em.

That article is ready to go and should post right after the Teaser.

In the second article, “Is the Battle For Same-Sex Marriage Nearly Over?”, I look at the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the appeals of several states who had their bans on same-sex marriage overturned by lower courts. It’s easy — and I think probably right — to view this as a tipping point. When the dust settles over the next few months, same-sex marriage will be legal in 30 states. The Court doesn’t want to get too far out in front of public opinion, but the legal, political, and social momentum all run in the same direction. Expect to see that article at maybe 10 or 10:30 EDT.

In the summary, I continue to marvel at the Ebola panic. Exactly one person has caught Ebola inside the United States, and it has become the only health problem we talk about. Also, predicting the 2014 Senate races has become almost impossible, with supposedly safe seats on both sides suddenly looking uncertain. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I got so many good suggestions after last week’s “A Conservative Lexicon With English Translation” that I’ll be putting out the Second Edition this week. In addition to new entries, the Second Edition has a Preface that discusses origin of the Lexicon, and corrects misperceptions about the intentions behind it. It should appear around 10.

It’s been another busy week for news. In the weekly summary, I’ll talk about the Hong Kong protests, Ebola, the possible successors for Eric Holder, the Secret Service uproar, and the National Geographic Photo Contest. The closing is an amazing piece about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone changed not just the ecology of the park, but even its geography. Look for the summary around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m still deciding whether there will be one or two featured posts today. The one I’m sure of is “A Conservative Lexicon With English Translation”. It doesn’t look like it, but it’s sort of a follow-up to “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“. In that post I observed that to the Tea/Confederate Party, tyranny meant using the democratic process to change society, through things like same-sex marriage or national health care, and Second Amendment rights meant the right of conservatives to stop democratic change by violence.

When you think about it for a while, you realize that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole conservative language, where words mean something very different than they do in standard English. Voter fraud means black people voting. Freedom of speech means that a conservative should not face criticism for speaking out. The Founding Fathers are a complete fantasy bearing no real resemblance to the people who actually wrote the Constitution. And so on.

If you understand those definitions, a lot of apparent gibberish suddenly makes sense and is scary. So I decided to collect them all in one place, or at least as many as I could think of. I realize I’m not the first person to try this, but I hope I’m advancing the field a little.

The second possible article is my reaction to the Adrian Peterson story, which has morphed into a discussion about parental discipline techniques. As a class immigrant (raised working class, now in the professional class) I’ve had a chance to observe both sides of what is basically a class divide. If this doesn’t become an article, a few paragraphs will make it into the weekly summary.

In the summary: Eric Holder, extending the air war into Syria, the media ignoring the Climate March, and an epic rant from Jon Stewart about the scientific ignorance of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Oh, and somebody solved the “Washington Redskins” problem: They can keep the name if they just change their helmets.

Let’s figure the lexicon to appear around 10 and the summary about noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week will have two featured posts that cover very different topics. The first is “Infrastructure, Suburbs, and the Long Descent to Ferguson”. I know, I’ve done a lot of Ferguson posts in the last month. But bear with me: This one uses Ferguson to illustrate the kind of big societal issue it’s hard to get a handle on otherwise.

Following the argument in John Michael Greer’s book The Long Descent, I think the central issue in whether the 21st century will see growth or decline is whether we are productive enough to maintain the infrastructure we inherit. (In Detroit, for example, the answer is pretty clearly “no”.) That in turn depends on how sustainably that infrastructure was designed in the first place, which is the main topic of Charles Marohn’s blog Strong Towns. Marohn argues that the car-oriented suburb is fundamentally unmaintainable, and that after a several-decades-long period of illusory prosperity, most of those suburbs will find themselves unable to support a level of economic activity that keeps the potholes fixed and the utilities running.

That’s where Ferguson is now, and that’s why it has to rely on misdemeanor fines for a substantial portion of its town budget. When the suburban car-culture illusion pops, you’re left with broken infrastructure and residents who can’t afford to move anywhere nicer. Your easiest way to raise revenue is to use the police to squeeze more fines out of the captive population. No wonder resentment builds.

Marohn expects to see a lot more Fergusons.

The second article will be “Is Ray Rice’s Video a Game-Changer?”. I think it is. Seeing domestic violence happen is different than just hearing about it, and I think a lot men who used to make excuses for abusers have had their eyes opened.

The weekly summary starts with a quote that made my jaw drop when I first read it twenty years ago, and the prospect of another Iraq War has made it very topical. The summary will also sample the wide range of opinions on the Apple Watch, point out that the “ObamaCare train wreck” continues not to wreck, and demonstrate once again that the real religious discrimination in this country isn’t against Christians, it’s against atheists. (Muslims too, but the example that popped up this week concerned atheists.)

Expect the Ferguson article around 9, the Ray Rice article at 10, and the weekly summary by 11. (All times EDT.)

The Monday Morning Teaser

How time flies: It’s been ten years since I wrote “Terrorist Strategy 101: a quiz” to explain why Bin Laden’s worst enemies in the Bush/Cheney administration were actually his best friends — they radicalized his base and in exchange he radicalized theirs.

Well, lo and behold, this decade has its own evil insane terrorist superman who will destroy us all unless we get him first: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. And all the same logic applies, as I’ll spell out in this week’s featured article “Terrorist Strategy 101: a review”.

The weekly summary will contain other links to the ISIS story, as well as a discussion of the celebrity nude photo leak, the guilty verdict on the McDonnells, and a number of other short notes.

Expect the terrorist strategy article to post around ten, and the summary around eleven, EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Happy Labor Day. If you have a paid holiday today, thank the unions.

This week’s featured article is titled “5 Lessons to Hold on to as Ferguson Fades into History”, though I’m still monkeying with the wording. Often it seems like the country learns something from a traumatic news story, but then it all goes away in a month or two. Let’s not do that this time.

In the weekly summary, Market Basket gave us a feel-good Labor Day story, Senator Gillibrand’s book has everybody talking about sexual harassment in the Senate, Burger King wants to have corporate taxes its way, Hillary Clinton’s Ferguson statement seems late and weak, and there really is feminist country & western.

I’m aiming to post the 5 Lessons article around ten EDT, and the summary by noon.


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